What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week,
Featuring Sophie Blackall and Lauren Castillo

h1 July 21st, 2011 by jules

“Back home I try to play with Melvin, but he is hiding.”

I’m heading out of town today to do this tomorrow in gorgeous East Tennessee. I get to talk about my favorite picture books of 2011 at an event sponsored by The Center for Children’s & Young Adult Literature at The University of Tennessee and Knox County Public Library, so color me happy. (But also busy. Super. Do I owe you an email? I’ll get to it soon, I swear.) Anyhow, before I leave, here’s some art for you.

At last week’s Kirkus column, I took a look at the author/illustrator debuts from Sophie Blackall and Lauren Castillo. Both women have illustrated many titles previously, but they’ve recently released picture books they penned themselves. John Manders also weighed in over at that column on what’s it like write your own tales: His author/illustrator debut will be this Fall with The Really Awful Musicians (Clarion).

So, to read more about the books and what I like about them, you can hit last week’s column. But today I share some spreads from Sophie’s and Lauren’s books. First up is art from Lauren’s Melvin and the Boy, released by Henry Holt in July, also mentioned here in the New York Times in early July. (The illustration opening this post comes from Melvin and the Boy.) After that is Sophie Blackall’s Are You Awake?, released by Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books in May.


(Incidentally, at tomorrow’s column, I discuss an early chapter book series from Candlewick that I find truly winning in many ways. That column will be here tomorrow morning.)

* * * * * * *

“I really want a pet, but I always hear ‘No.’
I ask Mom for a dog like that, but she says, ‘Too big.'”

(Click to enlarge spread)

“Everyone else has a pet.”
(Click to enlarge)

“When I take Melvin outside to meet my friends, he is shy.”
(Click to enlarge)

“At the park, when I set Melvin free, he goes right into the pond where two other turtles are sunbathing. They look just like Melvin. ‘We should let him stay here,’ I say.”
(Click to enlarge)

BONUS: I noticed one day that if you lift up the jacket on this book, there is a lovely illustration on the cloth cover. (Don’t you love it when that actually happens in this day and age?) It also made Lauren happy. “I talked the editor and designer into printing a line drawing on a book cloth underneath the dust jacket,” she told me. “It’s my very favorite part of the book.” Indeed. It’s lovely. See?

Early cover sketches

Lauren: “This was the drawing I made in my sketchbook way back in 2007 that sparked the story of Melvin and the Boy.”

* * *

Can I have breakfast now? NO. Why can’t I? BECAUSE WE’VE RUN OUT OF MILK. Can we get some more? NO. Why can’t we? BECAUSE THE CORNER STORE ISN’T OPEN YET. Why isn’t it open yet? BECAUSE IT’S STILL NIGHTTIME.”

Mom? MMM? Is Daddy awake? I HOPE SO. Why do you hope so?

Why is he flying a plane? TO TAKE THE PEOPLE WHERE THEY WANT TO GO. But why do they want to go at night? SO THEY CAN BE THERE IN THE MORNING.
Is it morning yet? NO. Why isn’t it? BECAUSE IT’S STILL NIGHTTIME.”

Why is it still nighttime? BECAUSE THE SUN HASN’T COME UP YET. Why hasn’t the sun come up yet? BECAUSE THE MOON IS STILL OUT.
Why is the moon still out? BECAUSE IT’S NIGHTTIME. Oh.

An early sketch from the book

* * * * * * *

MELVIN AND THE BOY. Copyright © 2011 by Lauren Castillo. Published by Henry Holt and Company, New York. Images reproduced by permission of Lauren Castillo.

ARE YOU AWAKE? Copyright © 2011 by Sophie Blackall. Published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Company, New York. Images reproduced by permission of Sophie Blackall.

6 comments to “What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week,
Featuring Sophie Blackall and Lauren Castillo”

  1. Hey Julie, wanted to let you know I enjoyed your review of Bonnie Beckers book A Visitor for Bear. I thought it might be too long for storytime but I gave it a chance and it worked great. Thanks for the insight, Best, Library Pete.

  2. Beautiful work by two amazing illustrators! Can’t wait to get my paws on these books.

  3. Luckily Sophie is still workoing onother people’s books! Have just seen the color proofs of TAKE TWO , a book of poems written by J. Patrick Lewis and me about twins, with Sophie’s dellcious paintings of babies, toddlers, and children.

    Love her work!


  4. Jane, exciting!

    Library Pete, so glad you liked it. It’s a wonderful picture book, huh? Oh my, it is funny stuff. And such a good read-aloud.

    Hi Johanna!

  5. I just read your Kirkus column and am so glad to learn that there are more Daisy books- we read the first and somehow I didn’t realize there were more!

  6. Both of these books have the feel of instant classics. As a mother of 2, the themes resonate loud & clear. And I just LOVE love LOVE each of their illustration ‘styles’. Thanks for featuring Lauren and Sophie together.

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